Tracy Chaplin, the producer of the upcoming mini-series Families by the Dozen, explained TLC as “returning to being a learning channel.” People want to learn about what it is like to be in a family like ours, to be a fly on the wall, to walk through a week with the Jeubs and observe daily occurrences that, similar to anyone, is unique with a dozen kids running around. From September 18-25, 2006, we allowed a producer and assistant producer, two cameramen and a sound technician come into our home and capture the day-to-day life of the Jeub Family. Nearly 80 hours of video was captured that will be edited down to 45 minutes for a 1-hour episode on The Learning Channel. Our episode will air in January 2007.
This project will not be narrated. The only voices will be by family’s and the participants on camera. Tracy and his crew asked questions throughout the week, and we simply answered them the best we could. The people at Powderhouse (the production firm working for TLC) will edit the work to bring the Jeubs’ philosophy of family life in with real-life examples.
The events of the week were reminiscent of most families–large and small–but had peculiarities that made them novel. We went shopping for one full (and very long) day–in our converted school bus. We attended AWANA that same evening-and everyone in our family (all 13) participated in one way or another. We homeschooled at the kitchen table. We did chores, washed the dishes, folded laundry. The camera crew came to work with me one day–with my 14-year-old admin assistant, Cynthia, coming with me. The crew followed Wendy to her small-group Bible study at a local coffee shop on Tuesday night, and they followed Cynthia and me to Debate Club on Thursday night. We went to church together–a home church located in a community center. And the biggest event was perhaps the most unique: hosting 188 people at our home for The Jeub Birthday Bash, the one birthday party we throw for all our kids.
The themes discussed throughout the week were rich. Wendy and I can’t wait to see how Powderhouse crams so much content into one episode. These themes are themes every parent and child can learn from and apply to their own lives. Here are some:
- Creativity. In a family with 13 kids, parents and children need to adapt to their surroundings and be creative with what they have. We gave a thorough account of our bus, something we believe to be incredibly creative. The tips and solutions we come up with can be applied to families of all sizes.
- Frugality. There is conventional wisdom that says a child costs too much money. We don’t believe that children “exhaust” a family’s equity. The cameras captured many money-saving practices that any family can apply. In fact, Wendy and I managed to feed 188 people for under $1 a head, and the cameras followed us shopping to show how.
- Training. There is peace in the Jeub home, which is likely the most surprising thing of a home with 11 children under 14-years-old running around. Wendy and I take time to “train” our children on proper behavior and etiquette. The cameras picked up on training episodes on how to behave in the stores and in church. Training is the key to raising kids who are well behaved–as well as key to making a house of more-than-a-dozen a house of joy rather than chaos.
- Trials. The Jeubs aren’t immune to family hardships and sin. Our little ones had quite a few “meltdowns” in front of the cameras. We have adult children whom we love who do things that create trauma and separation. Our journey as a family has not been squeaky clean. We go into great detail on many of our familial trials. The things we have learned and are still learning are truths that can be applied to a number of families, large and small.
- Extended Family. My sister Becky traveled up from Arizona for the Birthday Bash. Becky has “only” one child, which gave a wonderful opportunity to contrast two different branches stemming from the same familial root. Two of Wendy’s three sisters flew out for the Bash also (Heather and Paula). The cameras captured the three working in the kitchen reminiscing about being raised in a “large” family (Wendy had five siblings). Extended family–aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.–bring a wealth of love into a family.
- Blessings. Just like children are far from a drain on the family, we believe they are each a blessing. Each child contributes to the health and wellbeing of the family in their individual ways. TLC spent a great deal of time with Cynthia, our 14-year-old, who works as my administrative assistant twice a week. I talk about the spirit of entrepreneurialism I am instilling in my children.
- Freedom. Tracy caught me off guard when he told me of a word Wendy and I were using quite often in the interviews: freedom. There is a faulty notion that children are enslaving, that raising a family is “sacrificing” the enjoyable life. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ultimate freedom comes from walking in relationship with Jesus Christ, and for the Jeubs this includes allowing God to bless us with children. We are free!
- Love. This was the most profound aspect of our interviews. When it comes down to it, everything we do centers on love. God is love. The most profound statements of the week center on the love we have for our God and the love we have for each other. All the pragmatic examples of “how to do it” amounts to nothing if Love is neglected.
We are already talking about having Powderhouse and TLC out to hour home for Episode 2. What that will look like we don’t yet know. Wendy and I are eager to have a 14th child, and perhaps that will be the story. Whatever the story is, we hope to spread the message of love and joy to families of all sizes. It is a wonderful message full of eternal truths that Wendy and I are constantly discovering through our life journey. Our cup overflows with divine love and we can’t help but share it with you. Be sure to tune into The Learning Channel in January to walk through a week with The Jeubs. Previews will launch in December.